Rushia Brown – Cleveland Rockers
For Cleveland Rockers Rushia Brown the end of the WNBA season simply meant she flew to Europe and played a second nine-month season. But the years of non-stop basketball has taken its toll. “I’m exhausted,” admits the 29 year-old forward/center. So, resisting the lure of European money, Brown is trying something completely new: a vacation. “I’ve got to be smarter about the choices I make. I’m not as young as I was and I need to start making some decisions about keeping up my body.”
Her only problem? “I honestly don’t know where I’m going to put my stuff,” laughs Brown. After seven years of living out of a suitcase, there’s no place she calls home.
More than likely she’ll turn to those responsible for putting her into the predicament: friends and family who urged Brown not to give up on playing in the WNBA. Not invited to the 1997 league-selected combine, Brown attended local tryouts in Charlotte, but missed the final cut. Discouraged but determined, she traveled to Cleveland, where she was selected as a developmental player. Then, in June of 1997, Brown was activated and earned a place on the inaugural Rockers team. Now Brown counts herself as part of the veteran core of players that has taken Cleveland to the playoffs three out of the past five seasons.
Reflecting on that first season, Brown remembers how fragile the infant league seemed, despite the enthusiastic crowds. “There had been attempts in the past to have a women’s league and things never panned out. I just wanted to stay grounded and enjoy every minute.”
Being grounded and consistent has been Brown’s hallmark through the Rockers’ ups and downs. This season a stellar regular season was abruptly ended by a first round playoff loss to Charlotte. Inexperience, says Brown, was the deciding factor. “But,” she reflects, “just to know you played and didn’t give up is a positive thing for us to hold on to for next season.
The talent and drive of the young players on her team excites Brown. Australian rookie Penny Taylor is only 20. Second year point guard Helen Darling is just 23, and 2000 first-round draft pick Ann Wauters turns 21 in October. “My 24 is not even Ann’s 20,” reflects a bemused Brown. “She’s got moves and experience that I didn’t have. It’s scary to think of how she’ll develop.”
Of course, Brown is not ready to abdicate role as the crafty veteran. “What you lack in talent,” she says slyly, “you can make up for with smarts.”